BY KAREN CAMPBELL
Weakley County Schools Communications Director
WEAKLEY COUNTY (February 9) – The First Community Bank Youth Leadership of Weakley County (FCBYLWC) is a smaller group this year due to COVID-19 precautions, but the 12 sophomores from each of the high schools are on track to complete the eight-month learning experience. On Wednesday they spent the day with staff from Weakley County Schools, Jackson State Community College, Tennessee College of Applied Technology McKenzie, and the University of Tennessee at Martin’s Dual Enrollment program and enjoyed a tour of UTM’s campus.
The morning began with a panel discussion at the Board of Education in Dresden. After a welcome by Director Randy Frazier, supervisors and directors briefly covered topics such as special education, Career and Technical Education, federal projects, school safety, funding as the result of COVID-19, and the ongoing need for teachers.
“You may have heard that there is a crisis related to the need for teachers,” said Frazier. “In the coming months, you will be hearing more about that including the possibility that students pursuing an education degree may be able to do so tuition free. We are also exploring programs such as Grow Your Own, where recent high school graduates can attend a partner university and work with us as an Educational Assistant or in another role so that you are paid as you attend university classes.”
Steve Vantrease, chair of the Weakley County Schools board, was also a part of the panel. During the question-and-answer period he fielded several questions from the students related to policies.
The FCBYLWC class has already met members of local government, learned about economic development, and completed a community service project decorating Diversicare of Martin for Christmas.
“The eight-month leadership program is designed to expose qualified Weakley County sophomores to the various elements of leadership and its impact on a strong and dynamic community,” said Barbara Virgin, the Executive Director of the Weakley County Chamber of Commerce and the coordinator of the program. “We are grateful to our sponsors The First Community Bank of the Heartland with additional support from The Weakley County Municipal Electric System, Weakley County Schools, the Weakley County Chamber and everyone who generously contributes financially and dedicates time to this program.”
Natalie Perkins, a counselor at UTM’s Student Success Center and a member of the FCBYLWC board, worked with CTE Director Lindsey Parham to plan the day’s activities which included a trip to UTM where the students received customized tours of the campus based on their interests. Perkins also helped shape a new addition to the program this year that provides tips for college readiness.
She was a part of the program in 2007 and readily agreed to assist Virgin when called upon in her first year as a part of the board.
“It’s vital for youth to see what’s out there,” she said. “They are learning outside of the classroom, networking and seeing the world is bigger than their own county. I wished there were the financial resources to expand beyond our usual 20.”
Virgin said she is hopeful that this year the group will be able to travel to Nashville in March for State Government Day and participate in a day focused on agriculture, two aspects of the program which were not possible last year due to the pandemic.
To earn their place in the group, students are evaluated and scored by blind selection on criteria such as their GPA, leadership skills, community involvement, references, and their written application. The program is free to the students and offers ½ school credit upon completion.
Participants this year include Chloe Peevyhouse, Westview; Audrey Arnold, Greenfield; Kyzer Crochet, Gleason; Tanner Thomas, Dresden; Ginny Archie, Greenfield; Anastyn Vujicic, Greenfield; MyKayla Morrow, Gleason; Kate Stroh, Westview; Emily Kelley, Westview; Ashlee Mallon, Dresden; Grant Turner, Dresden; and Brooklyn McDowell, Gleason.